Introduction

To obtain approval, level 4 and 5 qualifications must meet the criteria below and applicants must agree to the terms and conditions for approval. Applications should be made via the online application form.

 

1. Alignment with standards

Criteria

The Higher Technical Qualification must relate to one or more occupations for which occupational standards are published at level 4 or 5.

How the criterion will be applied:

We will verify alignment to the published standard(s).

Identifying occupations for which there are standards.

Approval will only be made against occupations where there is a published occupational standard. In the online application form, applicants will be asked to clearly identify the occupation(s) the qualification aligns to. Where a qualification aligns to more than one occupation, the approval criteria must be met in full for each occupation in order for the qualification to receive a quality mark.

Some occupational standards (called core and options standards) cover several separate occupations with similar training needs. Applicants should identify which occupation(s) /option(s) the qualification aligns to.

Levels of occupations and qualifications

We will accept the submission of level 5 qualifications against occupations at level 4. This may be appropriate because qualification content could go beyond the knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) in the occupational standard. The level 5 qualification would need to meet our criteria for approval.  

Please contact the Higher Technical Qualification team before submission if you have a level 4 qualification that you feel aligns to a level 5 standard.

We will not accept the submission of a qualification unless it aligns to an occupational standard at level 4 or 5.  We will only accept submissions of level 4 and 5 qualifications.

Qualifications with multiple optional units

Some qualifications include multiple optional units, modules or pathways. We will only approve qualifications where all possible module, unit or pathway combinations cover the knowledge, skills and behaviours to ensure entry-level competence in the occupation(s) against which the Higher Technical Qualification has been submitted and for which the Institute has published an occupational standard.

We will not approve Higher Technical Qualifications where it would be possible for students to avoid learning certain KSBs, through their choice of optional modules or units.

2. Competence (coverage of standards)

Criteria

The Higher Technical Qualification must ensure a person can demonstrate they have attained as many of the outcomes set out in the standard(s) as may reasonably be expected to be attained by undertaking a course of education.

How the criterion will be applied

The level of competence attained by completing the qualification must enable a learner to enter into skilled employment in a relevant occupation (referred to as threshold/entry-level competence). To be credible to employers and learners as qualifications that deliver entry-level competence, we will expect Higher Technical Qualifications to cover all of the knowledge, skills and behaviours that can be obtained in an education setting within the specified standard(s). Applicants will need to indicate which KSBs cannot be achieved in an education setting or can only be partially achieved in an education setting and explain why.

The attainment of all the relevant outcomes of the occupational standard must be assessed using valid and appropriate methods for the occupation that can be delivered within the constraints of a course of (e.g. manageability, feasibility, affordability)

Employers must have been engaged in the development of the qualification, assessment materials and assessment outcomes. Evidence should include a detailed description of which employers have considered the qualification and how their comments have been factored in appropriately, and evidence that employers have demand for employees who have achieved the qualification. 

A Higher Technical Qualification may also include additional content over and above the KSBs set out in the occupational standard if that content is relevant to the occupation and valuable to employers.

The key test for approval is that by obtaining the qualification a learner can demonstrate that they have attained as many of the knowledge, skills and behaviours (in the standard(s) to which the qualification relates) as may be reasonably expected by undertaking a course of education. There are no limits placed on the duration of qualifications as long as they meet our criteria for approval.

We will ask you to provide a rationale for the exclusion of any knowledge, skills, and behaviours in the standard(s). The justifiable rationale could include (but not be limited to):

  • that there is limited access to specialist machinery or equipment required to practice a particular skill (however, this should not discourage submission of qualifications that have been designed for a specialist provider)
  • there are additional requirements, such as certification or registration, which are required meaning the knowledge, skill or behaviour cannot be achieved through this qualification.
  • the knowledge, skill or behaviour statement requires the individual to be based in an organisation or workplace (for example, understanding a particular company’s brand, goals, and commercial objectives)
  • the statement refers to the use of an organisation’s systems or processes which cannot be accessed e.g. content management systems, internal intranets, company guidelines and data.

Where it appears that a significant proportion of KSBs in an occupation cannot reasonably be obtained in an education setting, the Institute will seek evidence of employer support for Higher Technical Qualifications in the occupation, in order to ensure that approved Higher Technical Qualifications are credible with employers.

Behaviours

As described in our guidance on developing occupational standards, behaviours are mindsets, attitudes or approaches required for competence, generally across an entire occupation. Whilst these can be innate or instinctive, they can also be learnt.

We recognise that it can be challenging for learners to fully attain behaviours from a qualification rather than experience in the workplace. However, behaviours should be covered as comprehensively as possible, for example through teaching the expectations of behaviours.

3. Assessment

Criteria

A Higher Technical Qualification must also demonstrate that the attainment of all the relevant outcomes of the occupational standard is assessed using valid and appropriate methods for the occupation that can be delivered within the constraints of a course of education (e.g., manageability, feasibility, affordability).

We will seek to determine that the knowledge, skills and behaviours in an occupational standard are assessed in the qualification using valid and appropriate methods for the occupation that can be delivered within the constraints of a course of education.

We will also confirm with applicants that the assessment provides full coverage of the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours. We ask applicants to explain:

  • why their chosen assessment methods are the most appropriate way of assessing the knowledge, skills and behaviours from the occupational standard(s)
  • how they ensure the assessment achieves and balances validity, manageability, reliability, comparability, and minimising bias

We will ask applicants to provide examples of their sample assessment materials as evidence of their approach. There is not a specific number of assessments that must be submitted per application; however, Institute officials must be able to make an informed decision on the quality of assessment materials. Therefore, assessment materials must meet the following requirements:

  • assessment materials must include an assessment brief, grade descriptors and grade boundaries, this is referred to as an ‘assessment package’.
  • assessment materials must represent a mixture of assessment methodologies, for example written and practical. Assessment material which only demonstrates one type of assessment method will not be accepted.
  • assessment materials submitted for review must assess mapped knowledge and skills within the occupational standard and not generic key skills, for example academic referencing or teamwork.
  • if the Higher Technical Qualification includes core and optional units, assessment materials submitted must be attributed to core units in the first instance.
  • if the Higher Technical Qualification offers multiple pathways which each mapping to a different occupational standard, assessment materials for each standard must be submitted as well as assessment materials for core components. Therefore, if a Higher Technical Qualificationincludes pathways which map to 4 occupational standards, the Institute would expect to receive a minimum of 5 assessment packages, 1 for each occupational standard and 1 for a core component.

For qualifications on Ofqual’s Register of Regulated Qualifications, Ofqual may meet with awarding organisations to discuss their qualifications, particular aspects of compliance with the General Conditions of Recognition, and the materials they have submitted, to inform the advice they provide to the Institute.

Further recognition and registration requirements are set out below.

4. Additional occupationally relevant content

Criteria

Qualifications may also include additional content relevant to the occupation(s) that is valuable to employers. Any content that does not align to the relevant occupational standard(s) should be included in the additional content section of the application form.  We expect the vast majority (substantive element) of the qualification to cover the KSBs within the occupational standard(s). 

You must provide a rationale for the occupational relevance of any content that does not directly align with the occupational standard. We may request employer engagement evidence if required and make suggestions to awarding bodies on the occupational relevance of submitted additional content.

 Additional content could include (but not be limited to):

  • content which will increase the breadth and depth of understanding of a learner in their chosen occupational field.
  • content that helps bridge a gap with a higher-level occupation and support progression.
  • content which provides additional transferable skills which will support a learner in their career within an occupation.
  • content not specifically agreed by employers as part of the relevant occupation, but relevant to the occupation in a specific context, sector, industry, or locality.
  • cutting edge or experimental content, not currently specifically agreed by employers as part of the occupation but which could be valuable in future.
  • content that adds value to learners’ employability that does not fit within any of the above bullet points.

5. Recognition and registration

Criteria

Qualifications submitted for approval must meet the regulatory oversight requirements.

Qualifications designed by Higher Education Providers must be awarded by a Higher Education Institution which:

  • has Foundation Degree/Degree Awarding Powers and
  • is registered with the Office for Students.

Qualifications designed by Awarding Organisations must be both:

  • on the Ofqual Register and
  • available to learners in England.

How the criterion will be applied:

To ensure approved Higher Technical Qualifications are high quality, any applicant seeking approval of their qualification must meet the regulatory requirements of either Ofqual or the Office for Students. We will check that the regulatory requirements set out above are met.

Qualifications regulated by Ofqual and the organisations offering them are expected to be compliant with the General Conditions of Recognition and, where relevant, any applicable Qualification Level Conditions and Subject Level Conditions, which apply to specific kinds of qualifications.